North America's Oldest Department Store Looks... New

I hadn't visited Lord & Taylor's flagship in over a year. In the intervening period, I've noticed cab toppers, full-page New York Times ads, and other advertising featuring the store's modernized logo and "The Dress Address" branding. Why dresses? Any New Yorker can tell you L&T long has had a reputation for a reliable dress selection. Doubling down on the assortment and investing in branding the store as a destination for the category made tremendous sense to me.

I stopped into L&T this week to check out the the renovated dress floor. But the first new space I noticed was the Just Bobbi concept shop, which I didn't realize had opened. When I read about it, I had a hard time envisioning it as a compelling concept shop -- but it really is. If you know anything about Bobbi Brown, the quotes, water bottles, and sayings on apparel will resonate with you as being authentic to her persona. If the Bobbi Brown shop doesn't stay, I could imagine L&T bringing in another celeb or influencer to curate a new lifestyle assortment.

I headed upstairs to find The Dress Address and immediately noticed its prominence on the floor directory. Now this is how you stand for what you say you're standing for.

On my way up to the fifth floor dresses, I stopped in my tracks as I got off the escalator on the women's shoes floor. This department has been fairly high-energy at L&T for as long as I can remember, but it all looked particularly new and shiny to me. I spotted a pair of Stan Smiths I wanted to try and liked when an associate checked her mobile device to let me know they were available in the store before going back to stock room to retrieve them. (Unfortunately, she disappeared for more than 10 minutes and then shouted back to say the shoes weren't in stock after all.)

While I was waiting for the shoes, I noticed a visual merchandising strategy that clearly communicates the "Pool Slides' trend and leads with exclusive product from Xcel Brands like Karl Lagerfeld and IMNYC from Isaac Mizrahi. It looked great.

When I made it to the dress floor, I wasn't disappointed. I don't recall exactly what it looked like previously, but this is the first time I noticed inspiring detail that evokes the history of the building, bright lights, plenty of space, and TONS of dresses. It skewed dressy, but there were more casual options mixed into sportswear collections elsewhere, some in new brand shops like Vince.

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Overall, I'm really impressed with how this retailer - a legacy department store in an age when their demise is predicted daily, no less - has evolved its product, presentation, and positioning. Plenty of retailers should be able to take a lesson from what they've done.